Transforming Community: Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program

Are you called or want to test a call to lead spiritual groups and retreats?

Are you being drawn to deepen your spiritual practice?

Do you long for an authentic spiritual community to companion your journey of deepening prayer and preparation for contemplative leadership?

If your answers are yes, perhaps the Spirit is calling you to consider Transforming Community: Shalem’s Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program.


Transforming Community: Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups & Retreats is designed to equip, encourage and support those called to lead spiritual groups and retreats. Its focus is on nurturing deeper communion with God, contemplative awareness of God’s presence, and an openness to letting God guide.

A few words from our Program Director, Ann Dean:

Timeline & Components

Application Deadlines
Early Bird Deadline: November 1, 2021
Regular Deadline: December 5, 2021

Program Dates
(The program includes at-home work before the first residency, between residencies and after the second residency.)

At-Home Work: February – May 2022
First Residency: June 1-8, 2022
At-Home Work: June 2022 – February 2023
Second Residency: March 14-21, 2023
Leadership Paper: June 1, 2023

Program Components
At-Home Work & Two Residencies

Participants do much of the program work in their own communities, coming to the Baltimore/Washington area for residencies twice during each program. The residential retreats will be held at Bon Secours Spiritual Center. You will have a private room with linens furnished. The center and grounds are very spacious and include walking paths through woods and fields

At-home work includes:

    • A personal spiritual discipline of prayer/retreat time/a prayer support group;
    • Leadership of at least one contemplative prayer group in your locale;
    • Reading of selected texts from an extensive bibliography;
    • Time with a specially designed Shalem CD of spiritual practices;
    • Regular, periodic reports to a staff mentor;
    • A brief retreat reflection paper mid-way;
    • A final integrative or research paper based on your experience and learnings.

Residencies include:

    • Seminars (sampling of themes follows):
      – Retreat design and leadership
      – Scripture
      – Body awareness
      – Prayer and discernment
      – Sound and silence
      – Interior words and images
      – Exterior seeing
      – Creativity and contemplation
      – Earth prayer
      – Intercession
      – Body movement meditation
      – Practicing the presence in daily life;
    • Participant-led sessions;
    • A daily rhythm of prayer, rest and renewal, and silent retreat time.

A Certificate of Completion is awarded upon completion of all program requirements.


Ann Dean
Ann is Director of the Program and a nationally-known leader of retreats and conferences for deepening the life of prayer and developing new structures committed to contemplative prayer, Earth care and social justice. She has been a minister in the ecumenical community of the Church of the Saviour since 1994 and is a member of the Dayspring Retreat Mission Group.

Check back soon for a detailed program brochure listing the full staff.

Price & Apply Now

Program Price:

Early Bird Price (by November 1, 2021): $6,580
Regular Price (after November 1, 2021): $6,780

Check back soon for application information.


Graduates of Shalem’s Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats program share their stories from around the world!

Listen to 7 testimonials on this Youtube Playlist here.

Read graduate from South Korea Ambrose Kim’s testimonial here.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of reading is required as part of the program?
The reading list is a treasure trove of resources that will prepare program graduates to be knowledgeable in the field of contemplative writings, classic and contemporary.

How do I discern if this program is right for me?
Notice the movement of the Spirit. Is there a sense of call to leading contemplative prayer groups and/or retreats? Is the nudge coming from your spiritual heart and from others? Continue to pray about it and talk about it with your spiritual companions. Also feel free to call Ann Dean, program director, at (301) 762-5237 to talk further about participating in this program.

Must I already have experience in leading contemplative groups or retreats?
No. Many of our applicants are exploring a new call and have little or no experience of this dimension of spiritual leadership. Our program provides the resources and experience for the preparation you need.

Are scholarships available?
There is limited reduced-tuition assistance for those who demonstrate need. Often financial support is available from your local church, family or workplace, so please be sure to check those possibilities.

How much time on a daily basis is required to fulfill the program requirement?
Although this varies, a good daily guideline would be 30 minutes of contemplative prayer supported by 30 minutes to an hour of spiritual reading.

What are the writing requirements?
A brief, one-to-two-page retreat leadership reflection paper and a final paper up to 10 pages, which can be a retreat plan or a research paper, are part of the program requirements.

What if I am not connected to a church or retreat center? Where might I offer my group?
There are so many possibilities! Consider your own home, a retreat center, a community center, private spaces in restaurants, museums and art galleries, and outdoor settings.

What staff and community support is offered between residencies?

    • Shalem staff and faculty are available for consultation at any time.
    • As a participant, you will be assigned a peer group leader throughout the program who will serve as your mentor. This mentor will respond to your papers and reports.
    • Your peer group or other self-initiated groups, such as a reading reflection group, may arrange meetings and conversations via conference calls to provide ongoing community connections.
    • You will be asked to work with a spiritual director and an at-home support group as part of the program requirements.

What if I have other questions?
We are here to help. Don’t hesitate to call the program administrator, Chris, at (301) 897-7334 or


Bon Secours Retreat & Conference Center

Detailed Program Brochure

Feel free to contact Chris at (301) 897-7334.